Venus Laowa 17/1.8 - works well for street photography

Started 1 month ago | User reviews thread
ForumParentFirstPrevious
Flat view
larsbc Forum Pro • Posts: 16,844
Venus Laowa 17/1.8 - works well for street photography
13

I received the Laowa 17/1.8 last week and yesterday I was able to take it out for a test. My reason for purchasing this manual focus lens was to be able to reliably use zone focusing for my street photography. Prior to the Laowa, I've been using the Panasonic 20/1.7 and Panasonic Leica 15/1.7 for zone focusing.

Because I walk around for hours at a time, trying to capture sudden and randomly appearing photo ops, I keep the camera turned off to conserve battery life. But because I'm using zone focusing, I need the camera to return to a particular focus distance (3 meters) as soon as I turn it on. I shoot with Panasonic cameras so I enabled Resume Lens Position to achieve this. Unfortunately, it isn't 100% reliable and there have been many times when the lens was strangely focused only 1m away.

So I figured that I should try a manual focus lens because a) the focus distance would be easy to confirm at a glance and b) the focus ring will be nicely damped so it's unlikely to accidentally move.

I ordered the lens from Amplis Photo here in Canada. (I wouldn't recommend them; it took over a week for them to process the order and they never responded to any of my emails, asking about the status of the order.) When I opened the box, I was surprised by the weight of the lens. It's very dense. The included hood was a nice, snug fit. The aperture and focus rings rotated smoothly and were nicely damped. This is the cheapest lens I've bought for micro four thirds (cost was CAD$220...the previous title holder was the Rokinon/Samyang 7.5 fisheye).

Wide open, the left edge of the photos seem softer than the right. Stopped down to f/4 or smaller and the edges are fine. I was already planning on using this lens at f/4 - f/5.6 which is what I've also been doing with my other street photography primes. After a day of street shooting, my early opinion is that I think the lens lacks the contrast of the images I get from my other primes, particularly the 25/1.4 and 15/1.7. I'll have to shoot a lot more (or do some really boring side-by-side tests) to know for sure. There's a bit of CA that appears when at wide open but it's correctable in LR and it doesn't appear that often (my 25/1.4 has more brutal CA wide open and is harder to deal with). But for street photography, so far, I'm satisfied with the image quality. Oh, and the distance scale was very inaccurate. I ended up taping a piece of paper to the lens for 1, 2 and 3 meter distances.

I'm happy to report, unsurprisingly, that the lens was very consistent in sticking to whatever distance I set it to.

It won't replace my short AF primes but for my zone focus street photography (which is my main photographic pursuit since I can't travel these days), it will become my primary lens for the foreseeable future. Although with autumn almost upon us, I will probably have to go back to using AF and wider apertures as the light dims. But for only CAD$220, I have no problem with the cost vs use ratio.

Venus Laowa 17mm F1.8
Prime lens • Micro Four Thirds
Announced: Oct 21, 2019
larsbc's score
3.5
Average community score
3.5
ForumParentFirstPrevious
Flat view
ForumParentFirstPrevious
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum PPrevious NNext WNext unread UUpvote SSubscribe RReply QQuote BBookmark MMy threads
Color scheme? Blue / Yellow